Whole Foods shines spotlight on East Tennessee-made goods

When Whole Foods opens its 30,000-square-foot Knoxville store on Tuesday, it won’t just be a new option for health-conscious shoppers, but also a boon to small businesses that turn out produce, beverages and other edible goodies made in East Tennessee.
For some, it will be just the next step in an already successful strategy, but for others it’s a launchpad for their new venture.
Local and regional food items will include offerings from area farms, bakers, brewers, roasters and treat makers, among others.
You may have seen Epiphany Coffee at the Market Square Farmer’s Market and Winter Market, where owner Jarrett Vance is a vendor, but Whole Foods is the first retailer to offer his locally roasted beans. Four types of coffee will be available, but Vance focuses on small quantities of high-quality coffees through the Farm Gate direct trade program and likes to change them every few months, customers may be able to try a variety of others in the future.
“It’s a big opportunity; it means quite a bit for me. It’s a really good chance to actually have some growth for my business. … They’ve placed two orders already and they aren’t even open yet, so I’m really, really excited about that,” Vance said.
Coffees from longtime Maryville roasters Vienna Coffee Co. will also be offered.
It’s also a big step for local beer Fanatic Brewing, which released its first beer earlier this month.
Initially Whole Foods will carry the company’s Tennessee Blonde Ale on draft at its growler bar, said Josh Martin, Fanatic Brewery co-founder and president.
“We’ll start out with our Tennessee Blonde, which is going to be our lighter fare. Then we’ll roll out our pale ale. As we roll more out, we hope they’ll carry all of our products,” he said. “We’re looking forward to it. Whole Foods is a hell of a store … Knoxville’s a better city to have them here.”
Whole Foods will be the first traditional grocery to carry the brand, but Fanatic Brewing has more plans for growth. Bottled and canned beer for retail outlets are in the works, according to co-founder Marty Velas, and the target is to have bottles in stores by May and cans by summer or fall.
“There’s several retail chains we haven’t even gone into yet because just because we don’t have the cooperage (storage) for that,” said Martin.
Whole Foods’ growler station will feature offerings from regional breweries Saw Works, Yazoo, Blackhorse and Terrapin. Selections will also be available in “The Rocky,” a 50-seat dining area where guests can purchase beer on tap, wine by the glass and wood-fired pizza.
Whole Foods has a quality standard that requires that foods be absent of hydrogenated fats and artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners or preservatives, but that doesn’t mean you can’t satisfy your sweet tooth.
Expect offerings from ZenEvo Dark Chocolate, the creation of local health food store owner Eddie Reymond and partners, which has added Whole Foods to its numerous sales locations.
Now available “from Florida to California,” the brand was initially sold out of Reymond’s Health Shoppe in Knoxville, said Corey Church, one of Reymond’s employees, but has grown quickly in the few years since it launched. All the chocolate is still shipped from the Health Shoppe. Church serves as a shipper, salesman and tester of the product along with his duties at the store.
“It’s awesome that a store as well known as Whole Foods is welcoming local vendors, so we’re all excited … about being able to showcase the chocolate there,” Church said.
Other treats include homemade cookies, cakes, muffins and house-made gelato, as well as biscuit sandwiches in an area called the Biscuit Basket.
The market also offers household staples including grains, sea salts and sugar, nuts, dried fruits, dried pasta, beans and bean blends, and flours in bulk. For those not ambitious enough to make their own, breads from Hillside Bakery and Tellico Grains Bakery are available with offerings from The Tomato Head in the works.
Other local vendors on the shelves at Whole Foods include Cruze Dairy, Muddy Pond Sorghum, Three Bears Coffee, Haze & Co., River Dog Bakery, Blackberry Farm, Riley Family Farms and Bang Candy Co.

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